Backgammon is one of the oldest games around, but also one of the trickiest to learn. It's not that the rules are particularly complicated, or that it requires above average intelligence; the reason why backgammon can be so tricky to master is that players rarely get beyond the initial stage of getting comfortable with the rules and mistakenly thinking they have figured out all there is to learn about the game. Yes it is a game massively influenced by luck, but skillful decision making and psychology also play a vital role in separating the good player from the bad, or the masters from the beginners. Not many people realize that backgammon is a game where persistence, dedication and self-analysis can be extremely rewarding practices. As you begin to experiment with different strategies, you'll not only start to realize how complex the game is, but how much effort the pros put in to studying their own game and reading about it away from the board. You'll also find that when you start experimenting you'll loose a lot! Which is why most people never make it past the first stage and tend to play on the surface.
In the beginning it's easy to confuse being a lousy backgammon player with having extraordinarily bad luck. It sounds ridiculous but it is absolutely true. You'll find yourself trying to figure out why your opponent keeps rolling the right dice to hit you and even start to blame online programs for being rigged. At this stage in the proceedings you've probably played tons of games, think you have the rules down, but can't quite figure out why you're always loosing. You've probably figured that the game is essentially pretty simple: keep your pieces as safe as possible and hope your next roll is a good one. This is as far as 90% of backgammon players go with regards to strategy.
If you really have caught the bug, even though you're still a hopeless player, your next move should be to study strategy, there are many excellent books and tutorials out there designed to introduce you to the idea that there are many ways to play the game, and many different angles from which to look at it. Joining a reputable online backgammon website and striking up conversations with the various players that you encounter there can often be your first step towards peering beneath the surface. You'll hear people mentioning mysterious strategies such as 'Back Game' and 'Blitz', as well as nattering on about 'Equity'. We would also suggest you invest in software that analyzes your game, this is where the computer revolution pays dividends as a few decades ago this kind of penetrating insight into your game would have been nearly impossible to come by. With the aid of software analysis you'll quickly understand just how weak your game really is and how rarely, if ever, you make the best move given your position and turn of the dice. You'll quickly figure out that you have been loosing because each and every decision you've hastily made throughout the game, was a weak one. Your ego will also take a blow when it hits home that even your victories have come about as a result of an incompetent opponent, or just his inordinately bad luck. Regularly analyzing your game will not only show you what a dunce you've been thus far, but will reveal to you certain types of mistakes you seem to regularly make. Once these errors become apparent to you the chances that you'll pick up on them and prevent them during a game are radically increased. I hate to say this, but it's absolutely true, statistics are key to great success in backgammon, and study away from the board is just as, if not more, important than experience during play, after all if you approach every game with the same strategy, or a limited perception of the game, then exactly how much do can you possibly hope to learn from playing 10 or 10,000 games?
As the site expands we will continue to bring you in depth analysis on backgammon strategies as well as links to the best books on the subject and analysis programs.
Play Backgammon Online 08 January 2012Backgammon Strategy 24 October 2011View all articles